Don’t get me wrong. My college years were some of the best years of my life. Nonetheless, the first semester is always one of the hardest times. Classes are nothing like the ones in high school, you have a lot more freedom (which, ironically, means more responsibility), and you’re having your first little sampling of the real world. It’s an immense life change full of myriad possibilities and untraveled challenges. It can be really frightening.
So to help you out, I’m going to give you some advice: don’t do what I did. Here are seven things I did that only made a hard semester worse.
Choosing a Major You Don’t Love
Don’t pick a major just because it’ll rake in dough or because other people insist on it. If it’s not something you love or care about, you won’t feel motivated enough to do well. The best course of action is to choose a major that 1) you’re passionate about, and 2) where you can utilize your skills. You’ll be motivated, get better grades, and most importantly, become more skilled for jobs where you’ll succeed. And if you don’t know what you want to do, don’t worry about it too much. Chances are you can just focus on the core curriculum for now and wait until next year to pick your major.
Trying to Do Too Much at Once
I wanted to join a lot of clubs and activities to get the “full college experience.” But it didn’t take long before I realized I was just burning myself out. College is not like high school; the workload makes the one in high school look like infant’s play, and there’s more to worry about. Plus, you just got here, so you have to adjust before you fill your entire schedule. It’s better to do one or two activities and give them a decent amount of commitment rather than turn into a jack of all trades.
Trying to Make a Toxic (Course) Relationship Work
There are too many stories of people who get stuck with courses that make them miserable. Or courses where, even when they’re trying their hardest, they just can’t seem to do well. If you get in this situation, drop the course before the drop period is over. Like you did with your jerk ex-boyfriend, it’s better to do away with that course and move on than stick it out. Do it for the sake of your GPA, and more importantly, for your sanity.
Doing All Work and No Play
It’s true: you came here to get that degree, not to party. But that doesn’t mean every day has to be a workday. Put the schoolwork down for a weekend or a day off, and do something fun. See a movie or go out to dinner with friends. Take a walk around campus. Invite some people over for a game night. Go out and party, if that’s your thing. You can even sit out in the sun and read (no textbooks allowed!). Just do something relaxing that you enjoy, so your brain can take a break. Then when it’s time to get back to work, you’ll have a clear head.
I get it. You’re brand new to college and don’t know anyone. And you’re just a naturally shy person. So am I! So I’d never tell you to change. But there’s no harm in talking to people, or at least going to an event here or there. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to fellow members in any club or activity you’re a part of. You can also find out if there are any events going on specifically for people in your major; you’ll have at least that in common with others. If you’re not into big crowds, try a study night with one or two people, and you can all exhaust yourselves together. It’ll make for a great many laughs.
Not Getting Help
I’m stubborn. I realize that, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I really don’t like asking others for help. But it would’ve made my first semester a lot easier. If you’re having trouble with a course, having trouble getting adjusted, or have any other concern, talk to a professor about it. It may be intimidating sometimes, but they really want you to succeed. Share your problems with a friend or another person you trust. Call your family and let them know how you’re doing. Colleges also have resources for issues like depression and anxiety. You can always look into what counseling services they have on campus.
When stressed, I only tried to ignore it and kept grinding my nose to my work. That was a huge mistake. Not only did I have a horrible first semester; I had a horrible winter break afterward and had nothing but dread for the spring. I didn’t take the time to just lie down and take deep breaths, or meditate, or journal. Eat well and eat enough. Whether it’s lifting weights, swimming, or just taking a light walk, get some exercise in. And most importantly, sleep. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s next to impossible to get through a semester without a couple all-nighters here and there, but please don’t make it a habit. You need your rest so you can stay on a consistent schedule, focus well, maintain and improve your memory, and avoid groggy moods. Try to take short naps, but if you find they don’t work for you, then it’s okay not to do them, too.
Make sure you try not to do these seven mishaps, and you’ll have a better first semester than I did. Congratulations on starting college. I wish you the best of luck!